The Thrift Store Chair

 By: Spencer Best


    The green thrift store chair wouldn’t fit in the car.
            “We’ll come back tomorrow with my dad’s truck. I think it’ll still be here,” Em said.
    I shook my head; I knew what that meant. It meant that we would not come back for the chair tomorrow or any day after. It meant that the chair repulsed her. I’d be lying if I said that her opinion of it wasn’t a major part of its appeal.

    “We’ll wedge it in the trunk,” I said, knowing full well that we would not be wedging it in the trunk. It was a very large chair and a very green chair -- a gangrenous bastard child of a loveseat and a regular-sized chair. The exterior layer of fabric wasn’t just green; it was “snot green” (Em’s description, not mine, though I couldn’t really argue), and it had black pin stripes running vertically down the back portion of it. The real kicker was that someone had actually reupholstered it with that fabric. Someone had badly reupholstered it. Around the over-stuffed arms of the thing, we saw bits of a deep purple sticking out along the edges where the green fabric wasn’t stapled securely. The reclining mechanism was broken as well, but neither Em or I are much the reclining type.
            “The trunk?” Em asked.
    I nodded. Yes, the trunk. I paid the three dollars for the chair, and the cashier said that she’d have someone bring it around back. I asked Em if she wanted to pay me back the cost for her half of the chair now or later. She didn’t laugh.
    We walked out the sliding glass doors towards my car, a clunking little Oldsmobile. Em stopped as we neared it.
            “Ok, so, even if we do get this thing in your trunk, what’re we going to do with it until we move in next week?”
            “Your dad has room in his garage, doesn’t he? I mean, can’t we just keep it there for the week?”
            “Well, yeah. I mean, sure, but if we’re going to leave it with him anyway, then why don’t I just call him to come pick it up with his truck?”
            “Because we’re doing this ourselves,” I said, unlocking the passenger-side door and opening it for her.
    As I walked around to the driver-side, I watched Em shake her head and blow a burst of air through her mouth. I got in and drove around to the back of the thrift store.
    The back of the thrift store was just a long brick wall with an open garage door in the middle of it. Inside, we could see mounds of crap. No, really, mounds of other people’s unwanted garbage. Piles of pillows and stacks of dinner plates and an unstable pyramid of sofas. We walked inside since no employee was around. I couldn’t imagine why someone making six-fifty an hour piling up strangers’ unwanted shit wouldn’t be rushing to our assistance.
    Everything was so simultaneously organized and unorganized. It was like walking through a labyrinth where each wall was built out of different objects stacked eight feet high. We rounded the wicker chair corner and almost collided with a teenage boy in an orange vest carrying our chair. We followed him out to my car.
            “It’s not gonna fit,” he said. No -- he didn’t just say it -- he sneered it. He sneered it as if it was solely his own keen intellect that could make such an astute judgment call.
            “It’ll fit,” I said. Em had separated herself a good five feet or so from me by that point and was actually standing closer to orange vest guy than she was to me. She had chosen her side.
    I opened my trunk and carried the chair over to it. Orange and Em followed a few feet behind. I hoisted it onto the back bumper, making that mmmpff sound you make when you’re exerting a burst of physical energy, and rested it there for a minute. The green thing towered a good foot above the top of the car, nearly bumping the open trunk door. I balanced it there, wondering what the hell I was doing.
            “Told ya,” Orange said. Em distanced herself farther from the both of us.
    That was really all I needed, though. I needed Orange to be a dick. If he wasn’t, then I may have given up right then. Testosterone kicked in. I went to work wedging.
    I tilted the chair forty-five degrees towards me and pushed it in as hard as I could. It slid about a foot, the wooden pegs on the bottom of it carving their way through the carpet-like lining of the trunk. I pushed three more times -- like I was giving it CPR -- and it moved negligibly at best (not at all at worst). Orange stood with his hands on his hips. Em just looked at me like she was really, really tired. I was tired, too, but for different reasons. I turned to Orange, using my back to hold the chair in.
            “Got rope?” I asked.
    Em’s eyes woke up. Her brows furrowed and her mouth hung open a little, silently asking me if I was the dumbest person she had ever met (rhetorically, I suspect).
    Orange didn’t even bother to answer. He made some guttural noise in his throat, shrugged, and disappeared back into the shit labyrinth.
            “We can tie it in. You know -- open the back windows and feed the rope around. It’ll work,” I said, sort of to Em and sort of to myself.
            “Let me know how that works out,” she said.
    She leaned against the side of the car next to me.
            “We’re doing this together,” I said. I said it really seriously, too. It wasn’t even a serious moment. I just felt like it was important. I don’t know why.
    Orange was back out a minute later with a beach ball sized lump of twine and a knife. He handed them to me, stepped back a bit, and put his hands back on his hips, like he had the best seat in the house and the show was about to start.
            “Hold the chair in while I tie it around,” I told Em.
    Em obliged.
    I looped the twine through the opened back windows and around the chair hanging mostly out of the trunk. After six loops and the most excessively knotted knot I’d ever seen, I told Em to let go of the chair. She did; it stayed.
    I handed the knife and what was left of the twine to Orange. He said, “good luck” as he walked back inside. I’m not convinced that he meant it, but looking at the chair I figured we could use luck, even insincere luck. I got in the car. Em hesitated, grabbing the arm of the chair and giving it a shake. It shook. She blew a strand of her hair away from her face and got in the car. I did not drive fast.
    The transition between the pavement of the parking lot and the  pavement of the road was uneven. When the back tires went over it, the resulting bump caused the chair to bounce. I watched it jump an inch or so into the air in my rear view mirror. There was a quiet crackling noise from the open trunk being pushed past its maximum level of openness. Everything held together, though. Em’s left foot tapped incessantly. Her eyes pleaded with me, but she said nothing. I said nothing.
    Em called her dad to let him know that we were on our way. I couldn’t hear him on the other end, but when Em said, “I don’t know why dad, ask your soon-to-be son in law when we get there,” I could imagine. I remained silent, watching the chair in the mirror more than the road ahead of me. Em hung up. I got on the interstate.
            “What are you doing? You can’t take the interstate with that thing about to fall out the back!”
            “What do you want me to do? Take Eastgate all the way to your dad’s? It’s five miles and like twelve lights.”
    Em said nothing. Her foot stopped tapping. She sat still for a second before slamming her open palms down on the dashboard in front of her, sounding like two judge’s gavels making their joint rulings. I put my hand on her thigh and gave it a squeeze, but she pushed it away.
            “We’ll make it,” I said.
    Em pushed her long hair back, away from her face and behind her shoulders. She clasped her hands behind her neck, elbows pointing outward in front of her. She exhaled through her nose.
            “I know,” she said.
    Then the chair broke loose. I don’t know how. We didn’t hit any potholes and I didn’t swerve or break. It just slipped itself under the rope and fell backwards and out of the trunk, spilling itself onto the highway behind us. I watched it in the rear view mirror; it tumbled end-over-end a dozen or so times. The right arm of it splintered and flew off into the ditch. The fabric ripped to pieces, and the spinning chunks of purple and green blurred together until it came to a stop well behind us. I pulled over onto the side.
            “At least there weren’t any cars behind us,” I said, putting the car in park.
    Em looked at me, eyes large and wild.
            “Don’t,” she said. “Just don’t.”
    She got out of the car, leaving her door opened, and began walking forward down the side of the road in the opposite direction of the chair. I got out and caught up to her.
            “Hey,” I said.
    I grabbed her arm. She ripped it away, twisting her body and swinging her other arm at me, hitting me in the neck with her wrist. I stumbled back, wide-eyed. She covered her mouth with both of her hands. We stood frozen, face to face.
            “I’m sorry,” she started, “I didn’t mean-”
    I turned around and walked away.
            “Where are you going?” She asked.
    I said nothing. I walked past the car and back down the road a few hundred feet. The chair waited for me. I knelt down, picked the sad looking thing up, and carried it over to the side of the road. I was off in the ditch, looking for the arm, when Em came walking back over.
            “What are you doing?” She asked.
            “Need to find the arm,” I said.
    I walked away from her. She just stood there, head down.
    The arm flew a good fifty feet from the chair and was off in the ditch. I picked it up, threw it as hard as I could, and screamed. I kept screaming, too. Mostly just noise mixed in with some awful and horrible profanity. I turned back to the road; Em was sitting in the chair facing away from me. I stopped behind her, breathing hard and chewing my bottom lip like taffy.
            “I’ll call my dad,” she said.
            “Forget it,” I said, “it doesn’t matter anymore.”
    She reached her hand back behind the chair a few inches shy of making contact with me. She didn’t turn around.
            “We’ll make it,” she said.
    I looked down at her outstretched hand, took it, and squeezed it tightly.
            “I know,” I said.
            We stayed there like that, watching the occasional car pass, waiting for her dad to come pick up the pieces.

<Previous     Next>